A very successful and somewhat surprising season came to an end last week for the Eastport South Manor softball team when it lost, 7-0, at Bay Shore on Thursday, May 24, in the quarterfinals of Suffolk County Class AA playoffs. The Lady Sharks won their first playoff game since 2010 when it defeated Smithtown East, 11-4, at home on May 22.
It was a hard-played game, during which eighth-grader Kailah Konkel broke her collar bone and dislocated her shoulder on one play.
Fourth-seeded East Islip upset top-seeded Bay Shore, 4-3, in the Class AA semifinals on Saturday and hosted second-seeded Longwood on Tuesday for the county title. Longwood defeated Connetquot, 10-6, on Saturday to advance.
ESM, the eighth-seed in the tournament, came into last week’s game at Bay Shore confident with a playoff win under its belt. About halfway through the game, with no score, it looked like the Lady Sharks would have an opportunity to upset the Lady Marauders.
In the bottom of the third inning though, with two outs, Bay Shore’s Courtney Syrett belted a ball to deep left field. ESM left fielder Konkel almost made a play on the ball but it went over her head. ESM junior shortstop Dana Taglioni received the relay throw from Konkel and threw the ball home but a sliding Syrett was safe for the solo home run.
Bay Shore scored three more runs in the bottom of the fourth and tacked on another three in the sixth to take the 7-0 victory. Taglioni had one of her team’s six hits and had six putouts and four assists in the field. Sophomore Sam Vosper went 2 for 3 at the plate and also played well in the field. Vosper was playing second base for injured senior Michelle Amendola.
In the sixth inning, Konkel dove for a ball in the left center field gap and appeared to make the catch at first, but landed hard on her shoulder and the ball popped out. Konkel severely injured herself on the play, fracturing her collarbone and separating her shoulder. ESM head coach Laura Ward said that Konkel will be out for eight to 10 weeks, which will surely effect Konkel’s play during the summer travel ball season.
Ward said she was disappointed with the loss. “We really went into the game thinking we had a chance to win, and Dana lines a base hit into the outfield to start the game,” she said. “To hold a team like that scoreless in the beginning of the game is quite an accomplishment because they’re such a strong hitting team with so much power. But we played great defense and it was good that we got to play that level of softball.”
Bay Shore can be an intimidating field to play at, especially for a young team such as ESM, which only had one senior and four out of 12 players with two years of varsity experience. “I feel like that’s part of their game plan, to be intimidating,” Ward said. “It was good that we went there with one playoff game under our belt. That helped with our team that’s obviously so young.”
ESM was down, 3-2, heading into the fourth inning last week against Smithtown East, but it used a two-out rally to score four runs and take a 6-3 lead. ESM freshman Hope Brenkert tripled to left center field and was driven in on a bloop single to center field by Taglioni to tie the game at 3-3.
Then eighth-grader Marissa Rizzi singled in Taglioni and sophomore Nina Gaita to make it a 5-3 game. Freshman Jackie Chester then doubled down the left field line to bring in Rizzi with the team’s sixth run.
The Lady Sharks extended their lead to 11-3 by the time the seventh and final inning rolled around. Smithtown East was able to get a run home in the seventh inning before leaving the bases loaded.
Gaita went 3 for 4 with three runs scored while Chester finished 2 for 4 with two RBIs.
“Even though we were the higher seed, we were the underdog as far as everyone in [Class] AA was concerned,” Ward said, “and we shut them down, 11-4. There was one inning where they looked a little nervous but they regrouped quickly. Nina was so great with her bunt and slap hitting and it really threw their defense off and that’s when things started to click.”
ESM will only be graduating one player in Amendola, who was playing with multiple injuries down the final stretch of the season. Amendola led the team in batting with a .470 average.
“She really played through the pain. She was a good role model for the team,” Ward said. “She was definitely an asset and will be missed.”